Tag: <span>Kivu</span>

Democratic Republic of Congo Appeals

Democratic Republic of Congo: Sky Getting Darker.

Photo by  jorono,  Pixabay.

The armed conflict in the eastern area of the Democratic Republic of Congo (RDC) on the frontier with Rwanda seems to be growing worse and is impacting in a negative way the lives of people. The current fighting adds to the insecurity of the area and has virtually stopped cross-frontier activities largely done by women small traders. As a result, the price of existing food supplies has increased greatly, and shortages are to be feared.

The current armed conflict is among a Tutsi-led militia, the Mouvement du 23 Mars (M23), the forces of the RDC government and different ethnic militias. The President of the RDC, Felix Tshisekedi, sponsored the creation of local militias to help government soldiers, but the government does not control these militias. The United Nations (UN) Stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) which has been in the RDC since 1999 is the largest UN peacekeeping force with some 15,000 members.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets with Democratic Republic of the Congo President Felix Tshisekedi on the margins of the NATO Ministerial at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., in Washington, D.C., on April 3, 2019. [State Department photo by Michael Gross/ Public Domain]. By U.S. Department of State from United States, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Helmet Icon of United Nations Peacekeeping Logo. By United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

A theoretical UN sponsored arms embargo.

However, it has been unable to halt the fighting or to protect civilians. In fact, the area of conflict has grown and engendered a catastrophic humanitarian crisis, causing the displacement of more than one million civilians in North Kivu Province. The M23 has recently launched attempts to win allies in South Kivu Province, in particular the armed group Twirwaneko, with the objective of opening a front in South Kivu.

The government of Rwanda has become increasingly involved in the Kivu conflict with direct intervention by the Rwanda Defense Force (RDF) and, despite a theoretical UN sponsored arms embargo, with weapons and other military equipment. The M23 is also fighting against the Forces démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) a Hutu-led group hostile to the government of Rwanda.

Non-State actors and armed militias such as those in the RDC.

Recent attacks by M23 on populations associated with, or presumed to support the FDLR, have grown. Incidents of rape, including gang rape, by M23 combatants are prevalent but are not limited to the M23. The armed conflict is colored by a tense political situation with general elections, most significantly a presidential election, scheduled for December 2023.

The increased violence indicates the need for local non-governmental peacebuilding efforts which can be also facilitated by international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). There is also a greater need to build respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL). When the framework of current IHL as drafted in the 1948 Geneva Conventions in light of the experiences of World War II, the focus was upon the actions of national armies. Today, much violence and strife is due to non-State actors and armed militias such as those in the RDC.

There are two major weaknesses in the effectiveness of IHL.

  1. The first is that many people do not know that it exists and that they are bound by its norms. Thus, there is an important role for greater educational activities, the dissemination of information to the wider public, specific training of the military, outreach to armed militias, and cooperation with a wide range of NGOs.
  2. The second weakness is that those violating IHL are rarely punished. Few soldiers are tried or court-martialed. This weakness is even more true for non-state militias and armed groups. There is yet much to do for the realization of the rule of law.

Note.

  1. For useful guides to International Humanitarian Law see: D. Schindler and J. Toman, The Laws of Armed Conflict (Martinus Nihjoff Publishers, 1988).
  2. H. McCoubrey and N.D. White, International Law and Armed Conflict (Dartmouth Publishing Co. 1992).

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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Reconciliation Appeals

Reconciliation in Africa: A Vital Need.

Featured Image: USAID has integrated reconciliation and trauma healing into peace building. This has helped communities moveout of the cycle of violence and revenge.Photo credit: Pact/Aernout Zevenbergen. By USAID in Africa, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Pope Francis’ Appeal to the populations of the Democratic Republic of Congo and of South Sudan for reconciliation and forgiveness stresses a vital need to overcome the divisions of the armed conflicts in the two countries.  A million people came to the Kinshasa airport to hear the Pope call for an end to the armed conflicts in the eastern Congo, basically the administrative provinces of North and South Kivu.  The area is huge, about the size of the U.S.A. east of the Mississippi River.  Originally, he had hoped to go to Goma, the major city of eastern Congo, with many refugees from the surrounding area. 

However, the security situation was such that the itinerary was modified.  However, his words reached the area.

Pope Francis in 2021. By Quirinale.it, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has a large Christian population.  The activity of Christian missionaries was part of the agreement to create the Congo Free State which was the personal property of the King of Belgium before becoming a Belgium colony.  Thus, the Pope’s influence can be real with a fairly strongly developed Catholic Church infrastructure to follow up.

However, the divisions within the country are deep and of long duration.  The divisions have both ethnic and economic roots.  The Congo’s vast mineral and timber riches have drawn in neighboring armies which have joined local insurgencies as well as local commanders of the national army to exploit the mines and to keep miners in near slavery.  The eastern area of Congo has been the scene of fighting at least since 1998 – in part as a result of the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994.  In mid-1994, more than one million Rwandan Hutu refugees poured into the Kivus, fleeing the advance of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Front, now become the government of Rwanda led by Paul Kagame.

Rwandan PRESIDENT KAGAME ATTENDS THE NEPAD@20 SYMPOSIUM Virtual Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda (2014). By Вени Марковски | Veni Markovski, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Genocidaire.

Many of these Hutu were still armed, among them the “genocidaire” who a couple of months before had killed some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda.  They continued to kill Tutsis living in the Congo, many of whom had migrated there in the 18th century.  As the Rwandan groups created their own militias, so did different Congolese ethnic groups, often drawing on their ethnic brothers who deserted from the Congolese army.  Deserters and ethnic militias combined to rob and burn villages and to rape on a large scale.  Rape as an instrument of war has been widely practiced in eastern Congo.

Systematic rape is a crime which is covered by the mandate of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.  Rape is a violation of international humanitarian law.  Additional Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions prohibits:

“violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as torture…outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault, slavery.”

Image: Photo by Stewart Munro on Unsplash.

A Step Forward in the U.N.’s Efforts Against Rape as a Weapon of War.

The MONUC.

Into this disorder, in 2002, the United Nations sent peacekeepers, the MONUC, currently some 18,000 persons – the largest U.N. peacekeeping operation.  The MONUC mandate has been prolonged with a new Security Council resolution each year that the sponsors hope will be the last.  Each year, there is so little improvement in the security situation that the mandate is continued with little debate and with general indifference of world public opinion.

On paper, the U.N. mandate is clear and comprehensive – to build the political, military, institutional, social and economic structures needed to create a secure environment.  However, there is no effective Congolese administration.  The U.N. troops are not trained to deal with the cultural issues – especially land tenure and land use issues, which are the chief causes of the conflict.  U.N. peacekeepers are effective when there is peace to keep.  Today, there are an estimated 120 separate armed militias in action.

What is required today in eastern Congo is not so much more soldiers under U.N. command as reconciliation bridge builders, persons who are able to restore relations among ethnic groups of the area.  Such bridge builders can help to strengthen local efforts at conflict resolution and the restoration of confidence among peoples in conflict. It must be hoped that the Appeals of Pope Francis will provoke creative action on the part of bridge builders.

 Picture: MONUSCO Photos, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, Weak but Necessary.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot”…

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